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How we test robot lawn mowers

Find out how our robust lab tests separate the fantastic Best Buy robot lawn mowers from those you should avoid
Tom Morgan
Robot lawnmower_190820 488863

To help you choose the right robot lawn mower for you, we pay attention to the features that matter the most. Explore our guide and find out how we test robot lawn mowers.

For every mower that reaches our lab, we run through a range of tests to make sure you can effectively look after your garden without getting too involved. Top-scoring models have to soar through our grass cutting tests and ease-of-use checks, plus they need to have an impressive battery life.

Keep scrolling as we explain more on what a robot lawn mower has to do to be a Which? Best Buy. Alternatively, head straight to our robot lawn mower reviews.


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How well does it cut the grass?

We test each robot lawn mower on a range of grass types over a period of four weeks, assessing the efficiency of the cut and the neatness of the finish. This way, we can compare how well the mower cuts over time as well as at immediately out the box.

We see how well each robot mower handles long grass, rough grass, damp grass and a standard lawn, as well as how long it runs and charges for, on average.

Several of our testers rate the mower’s grass cutting ability on the overall appearance of two lawns it has cut of each type, the evenness and cleanness of the cut, how many spots it misses and any wear marks the wheels or blades leave behind.

How evenly does it spread grass cuttings?

Unlike conventional lawn mowers, robot lawn mowers don't collect up the grass cuttings. Instead, they finely chop the clippings and redistribute them on the lawn in a thin layer that gives it nutrients and keeps it healthy. This process is called mulching.

The best robot mowers will cut the grass into small bits and distribute them in an even layer. You’ll want to avoid robots that struggle to chop grass properly or leave clumps of cut grass, as when the clumps decompose they can cause your grass to rot.

We also test manual lawn mowers with mulching modes, and rate them for the quality and ease of using mulching modes.

If you're looking for a conventional model instead, head to our lawn mower reviews to see which ones we recommend.

Robot lawn mower on lawn

Is it easy to set up and program?

The best robot lawn mowers are easy to set up and program, from laying the boundary wire, setting it to run for the first time and connecting it up to any accompanying apps.

As part of our ease-of-use tests, we note:

  • How easy it is to construct any boundary wires and pegs to establish the mowing area
  • How straightforward it is to use the Android or iOS smartphone apps to program the mowers to run at certain times each day or week
  • The convenience of using any manual controls, setting up the base station, setting the cutting height, lifting and carrying, changing the blades and cleaning the mower
  • Any important limitations or interesting features the robot mowers have, such as the total number of zones you can program it to mow, the maximum size lawn you can cut, and the presence of temperature and rain sensors.

Our overall convenience and construction ratings also take into account the feedback of our gardening experts.

Can it handle difficult terrain and obstacles?

Your robot mower is sure to frustrate you if it gets stuck whenever it hits an obstacle or a patch of uneven ground, which is why we test them in a range of difficult scenarios to see how well they can cope.

We run each mower around areas with fences, flowerbeds, patios, trees and narrow passages, and assess how well it navigates each.

Some mowers will smartly avoid obstacles, and handle slopes and uneven ground without difficulty, whereas others will get stuck and need you to go and lift it up to get it out of trouble.

Head to our robot lawn mower reviews to see which ones will smartly navigate whatever difficult terrain your garden might have.

Robot lawn mower cutting lawn edge

Can I replace the battery?

Lithium-ion batteries always deplete and eventually die over time.

At Which?, we believe cordless products should last longer than the batteries they come with. That's why we don’t give robot lawn mowers Best Buy recommendations if spare batteries can't be bought from the manufacturer – no matter how good the mower might be.

Should I buy it?

All the tests we run make up a part of each robot mower’s total test score, which is the percentage figure we award each model.

Some tests are more important than others, though, and so carry different weights:

  • 60% grass cutting ability and efficiency 
  • 20% ease of use and convenience 
  • 10% quietness 
  • 5% instructions 
  • 5% construction

For a detailed explanation of how these mowers work, and their pros and cons, head to our guide on the best robot lawn mowers.